A constitutional crisis in the Hungarian judiciary


“The Hungarian
judiciary is facing a kind of ‘constitutional
’ since May 2018 while “checks and balances, which are crucial to ensuring judicial
independence, have been further weakened within the ordinary court system”. These are findings by the European Association of Judges and the European
Commission, both of which are following with concern the deterioration of the
independence of Hungarian courts.

Beyond growing
attempts by Hungarian authorities to exert political control over independent
institutions, including courts, the independence of the judiciary in Hungary is
severely threatened by a prolonged conflict between key judicial actors that is
jeopardizing the effective oversight of court administration. The person
responsible for court administration, the President of the National Judicial
Office (NJO) is not cooperating with the judicial oversight body, resulting in
a “constitutional crisis”. This oversight body, the National Judicial Council,
found that the NJO President had breached the law multiple times regarding
recruitment and promotion of judges, hence it requested the Parliament to
dismiss the NJO President. However, on 11 June 2019, the Parliament’s ruling
Fidesz-KDNP majority voted to keep her in office.

At the same
time, the Government is planning to set up a heavily government-controlled
administrative court system that will be separate from the ordinary courts. The
new court system will have jurisdiction over taxation, public procurement and
other economic matters, election, freedom of assembly, asylum and certain other
human rights issues, as well as all kinds of decisions taken by public
administrative authorities. Several domestic and international actors have
expressed concerns over these changes in recent months, such as the European
Commission, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner
and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges.